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An annoying, but refreshing question

Today, I went to the pain clinic. Rather than talk about how I don't like that I'm still dealing with RSD, and that it's still chronic pain, and that I don't like it at all, I'll tell you about another part of the visit.

The nurse practitioner I work with is very kind (everyone there is). Today, as with the previous few visits, she asked if I could still identify all of my medications. I must have looked annoyed (which I'm somewhat repentant about), because she said she was sorry, but she would continue to ask this question.

Yes, I'm annoyed. But in many ways, I am so glad to see this question being asked. If you disagree, you might take a look at these two articles provided by the
American Foundation for the Blind

The reality is that while I have plenty of tools at my disposal such as Braille labels, rubber bands, a good sense of touch and years of blindness experience, not everyone does. And medications are potent. There is always a risk when someone takes a drug. But that risk gets much worse if the medication isn't taken properly. And the question still stands: how do you take your meds properly if you can't identify them?

While I do feel some annoyance at answering the question, I feel grattitude that the doctors, nurse practitioners and nurses at my clinic care enough to ask the question. I can imagine all too clearly a situation like the following made up case study:

Mrs. Johnson, a 75-year-old woman has been healthy for most of her life. She hasn't needed many medications. She's begun to lose her sight, and the problem has been great enough that her glasses no longer correct her vision enough, and she is considered legally blind.

Mrs. Johnson begins having severe pain, we'll say due to shingles nerve damage. She begins taking a few medications, which have different dosing instructions, but feel similar.

Not wanting to bother anyone, Mrs. Johnson doesn't tell anyone that she sometimes has trouble identifying her medicines.

One day, Mrs. Johnson takes too much of one medication. Unfortunately, it's one which can easily be over-dosed. In addition, because Mrs. Johnson doesn't know which medications she's taking, she takes none of a medication which should not be stopped abruptly. This causes severe symptoms, and a hospitalization.

I obviously don't have enough medical background to give specifics. What I do know is that this is still plausable. I would much rather answer a simple question than have the issue overlooked.

One additional concern I do have is what if the people who most need to be asked this question are the ones no one thinks to ask? Is Mrs. Johnson going to mention her failing vision to the doctor? It's a sobering reminder that the people who could most need my interventions as a social worker might be the ones I wouldn't expect to need it. And the questions I might need to ask most might seem like the ones I need to ask least.

I'll certainly be more patient with questions like this. I'd be interested in knowing if you've ever been asked this question, and even if you haven't, how would you react to it? Please feel free to leave a comment!


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Oct. 13th, 2007 08:30 am (UTC)
that question
I think I wouldn't respond too badly to the question asked in that mnaner as opposed to, say, "How will you identify this?" which feels accusatory or like the person expects me to not be able to do it from the start, or, "Do you have someone to help you?" which gives me no option to do it myself if these are meds I'm familiar with. I consider it the pharmacist's job to make sure they give me the right things in the right bottles, but unfortunately I have had the experience of opening up my med bottle and discovering that it wasn't a little round pill like I expected but a little oblong pill that looked like another of my pills. When I took it to someone to identify, I found that I had someone else's prescription! So now I make the person sit in the parking lot and identify every bottle in the bag, not just read the inserts attached to the bag. It usually annoys my family to do this; but I could have gotten in huge trouble because of a pharmacy mistake if I had been refilling the little oblong pills that day. If I happen to walk to pick up my meds, then I stand there, open the bottles, check the pills inside, and ask wherher the bottle says xxx prescription. I've had to learn all the generic names since that's how most meds are filled...
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